This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
As a people, we think Americans may justly claim to be floral children, for everywhere over our whole country, in the grounds of the wealthy, the homestead of the farmer, or the cottage yard of the poor, do we find more, or less of ground, care, and labor, devoted to the cultivation of flowers. Without thought, without study, but intuitively, as it were, no sooner is the house built and ground fenced, than out goes a plant of some sort, perhaps a rose bush or chrysanthemum, and from year to year it is added to, until, before aware of it, the owner finds that some arrangement is necessary in order to grow or bloom his or her plants in perfection. Again: without much of thought, the plants are spread around here and there, as room, or an idea of a "good place," occurs. Circles are formed; slight mounds made; because every lover of flowers has a natural impression of the "line of beauty," and loves the swelling and graceful, yet often irregular forms and lines of Nature. The varied styles of arrangement, recorded and pictured in the books, are rarely known.
The Italian, with its terraces, its parapet walls, its roses, and its straight rows of orange and myrtle trees; the French, with its parterres of complicated figures, elegant statues, labyrinths, and fountains; the Dutch, with its rectangular formality, its stiffly, yet often curiously-shaped trees and shrubs, are all styles unknown to our first planters, and even when known, can rarely be adopted, because of the expense, and the fact that the whole must be complete to be at all effective. The natural style, however, with a little aid of art, may be adopted by all, may be partially completed or wholly so, and yet be satisfactory; and it is this in its simplest form that intuitively, and without thought, that is adopted when commencing with a circle- a form that is always pleasing; and when the plants are placed and grown therein, with the highest stems and brightest colors in the centre, becomes very effective. The straight border is occasionally found in small places, not because its owner prefers it, but because they love and will have flowers, and know not how else or where else to plant them.
We have seen this border, because of its unsatisfactory and stiff appearance, attempted to be broken up by jobbing gardoners, as see Fig. 1, resulting, as we think, in deformity rather than outlines of beauty. The simple circle, arranged in threes or fives, as see Fig. 2, cut out of the turf, and yet so near the path that the flowers may be all plainly seen therefrom, we consider for better; and certainly the breadth of eighteen inches or two feet of smooth turf next against the walk, is preferable to the bricks, strips of boards, etc, that too often line the borders of beds, as in Fig. 1. Circle groups in small plots of ground, where little labor, and that of a common laborer, is expected to be given, are pleasingly satisfactory, and from their simplicity can always be kept in form. Fig. 3 shows an arrangement of circles that, with the list of plants accompanying, which are always easily and cheaply obtainable, presents during the whole of summer a succession, or rather constancy of flowers most effective and satisfactory, and may be used on one corner of a lawn, or as a regular flower garden.
1. Salvia splendetis - scarlet.
2. Lantana rosea - rose-colored.
3. Lantana delicata - white.
4. Heliotropium - of varieties, all shades of blue.
6. Trailing Lantana.
9. In the centre of this bed, plant a heliotrope, and surround it with, first, a circle of double petunias, then with dark purple and marroon-colored flowering verbenas, encircling the whole with -white-flowering verbenas.
10. Plant the centre with a circle of, say, five plants of scarlet-flowering geraniums, one named Gen. Grant being among, if not the best; then surround these with bright scarlet verbenas, and these again with blush and peach-colored flowering verbenas.
11. As every one loves roses, let us give this circle to that flower, by planting all of the tea-scented family, because they flower continuously. In the centre, then, put Caroline, and eighteen inches from her, in a circle, we put Compte de Paris, Eugene Desgasches, Goubault, Souvenir, d'un Ami, and Bougere; then for outer circle, dividing the remaining space, we use Adam, De-voniensis, Gloire de Dijon, Moire, Lady Warrenden, and Sombreuil.
12. In the center, we will use the old rose-scented geranium, because its foliage is so desirable in a boquet, and surround it first with Tom Thumb geraniums, or, if the plot is a little shaded from the mid-day sun, with fuchsias, and then again with verbenas of spotted and variegated flowers.
Other arrangements could of course be made, and perhaps with equally pleasing results; and the gardener or amateur having command of plants can arrange accordingly, keeping always in mind the placing of the tallest growers, and those of most brilliant color of flower, as the center, shading down to the turf with less distinct and softer colors. Our list here given is, however, one that may be obtained at almost every little green-house in the country, and at low prices, and therefore within reach of the million, for whom we write.
Next to this simple form of circles, in what is termed the natural style, comes fancy forms, embracing art in their designs, and the use of which, unless managed with skill, is more apt to produce a bad rather than a good effect. Fancy-formed beds of flowers should never be placed out upon a lawn, because such placing breaks up the repose and sacrifices breadth, thus injuring rather than adorning. They may be occasionally introduced to break the continuity of a line of shrubs, their brilliancy of flower and artistic form serving as a relief against the more sober tone. They may also be judiciously placed in the curves or on corners of the footpaths, and especially when near the house, care always being taken that the style of architecture of the house be thought of, and forms selected with more regular lines for a square-built house than for one of irregular form, and of pointed or broken architecture.
Fig. 4 gives position of the steps to a house, the starting of the paths and two beds, with some of the plants now growing in them, and which have been regarded as quite effective and satisfactory for some years.
No. 1 is a mahonia aquifolia; 2 is African tamarisk; 3 is clethra alnifolia; 4 is spirea prunifolia flore pleno, and the remainder of this bed is filled in summer with salvias, lantanas, and heliotropes. No. 5 is a tree peonia; 6 is a calycanthus florida, or sweet-scented shrub; 7 is spirea callosa; and 8 is colutea vel pocockii, the balance of the bed in summer being filled with geraniums, carinas, and other broad foliage and flowering plants. The result is blooms in early spring, and continued till late frosts and nearly all distinct and showy.
There are no definite rales which can be laid down in designing the form of a flower bed, all being a matter of caste and judgment; and so much more as that taste has been ripened by study, observation and comparison, so much more graceful in form and appropriate to the surroundings will bo the art productions. Some landscapists have advised the various forms of leaves as desirable forms for flower-beds; but in our experience the palm leaf is the only one that, when worked, has proved satisfactory.
As a guide to the novice, we give here representations of some fancy forms (Fig. 5) that we have found effective, repeating, however, our previous remark, that their adoption in any place all depends upon the styles of architecture, and of the tree planting, breadth, evenness, or inequality of lawn, for the production of pleasing results in their use.
Ribbon planting has within a few years, become quite fashionable in the hands of gardeners who have command of plants in quantity; but it can never be effective on a small scale, nor do we think it tasteful except in any but a waved and long flowing line, where the eye is varied as it passes over it. In long or short straight lines it is stiff, and entirely out of keeping with anything but the borders of the kitchen or small fruit garden.
The accompanying plan. Fig. 6, of a symmetrical flower-garden, taken from Loudon, we have seen worked up with satisfactory effect: so arranged, that they graded and shaded from a centre toward the fountain, and also toward the outer walk. It was originally designed to be placed on a corner of a lawn, and hence the few beds outside of the circle. These, of course, are left out when it is placed, as we have seen it, surrounded by turf.
Fig, 5. The centre was occupied by a fountain of water, and each bed planted with a separate variety of plants, the colors and heights